Peggy Flynn had an abortion in the 1980s, when she was in her 20s and single. She never told her family. She has also never regretted it, nor had children. She is talking about it now — for the first time — because she is horrified at the leaked Supreme Court decision, which, if finalized, could overturn nearly 50 years of case law. Women have to speak up, she says. All women deserve control over their bodies and the right to decide what constitutes a fulfilling life.
I had one.
I’ve never regretted my decision, not once.
I’ve also never talked about this before.
But as our Supreme Court moves in a direction I — and many in my circle — believe is backward and returns us to laws of the 17th century — I feel I must speak out.
We women who have benefited from the right to choose for nearly 50 years, since the seminal 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion must stand up and fight for those rights. That’s why I have marched in Santa Cruz twice in recent weeks. It’s why I feel solidarity with thousands of protesters across the country who have converged in dozens of cities since the May 2 leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft decision upended our notions of what rights are sacred.
I’ve never beaten myself up for my choice. I’ve never felt wrong or immoral, which was a big deal for someone raised in a very Catholic family. I wasn’t frightened about having the procedure at Planned Parenthood; I was frightened at what my life would be like if I didn’t have one.
I did not want to be a young, single mom. I was the second-oldest of seven children and my parents joked that I’d been babysitting since I was 10. The joke hit too close to home and certainly factored into my decision to not have children.
Another decision I’ve never regretted.
I was then, and remain today, extremely grateful abortion was available in my community.
I’ve thought about what my life would have been like if I had not had an abortion, and it would have been different, for sure, and from my position looking back, not at all the life I wanted for myself.
In my early 20s, I married my first husband, and by my late 20s, we were heading for divorce. He was about to graduate from law school, and I was about to finish my undergraduate degree at George Washington University.
A one-night fling had resulted in my pregnancy, just like they tell you can happen in sex education classes — the ones I never had in either Catholic or public schools. I wasn’t sure I was pregnant until about the seven-week mark.
I was 28 years old, petrified, newly living alone, without health insurance, and worried I’d be fired from my part-time proofreading job for taking several long lunchtimes. I had not yet finished college and desperately wanted to get a degree.
Planned Parenthood required several visits — first to confirm the pregnancy, and then for counseling to ensure I was clear on my decision. I don’t recall how much the procedure cost, but I do know that my about-to-be ex-husband wouldn’t give me any money from his account, since we had already dissolved our joint accounts, not that there had been much to dissolve.
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I borrowed the money from a co-worker and made her promise not to tell anyone what the money was for.
So much secrecy. So much shame.
I didn’t tell my sisters, who are still practicing Catholics living in New York and Connecticut. I still haven’t.
The closest I came was about 20 years ago when one sister, who held liberal political views, told me that in light of a prayer group she had joined, she was “rethinking her position” on abortion.
“If you’re against it, fine, don’t have one,” I hotly responded, “but don’t tell other women what they can and can’t do.”
Interesting side note: After Alito’s leaked draft decision emerged, this same sister told me she was thinking of leaving the church. “The courts have become victims of extreme right-wing Catholics,” she remarked. I said nothing.
I did have the life I had hoped for — writing for small newspapers, then giant companies, and traveling and exploring a lot of the world. I served in the Peace Corps in Botswana as a 50-plus-year-old boomer.
I’ve also had experiences that I couldn’t have imagined back then, like leaving Washington and buying a farm in Northern California and learning to can fruit and shear sheep. I even had stepchildren with one husband, although only one of the kids lived with us. It was a challenge, especially since I hadn’t seen this role in my fortune cookies, but I loved the kids.
Every life has some hard, tough times. I married again and it was great until it wasn’t; I lost a teen stepson I adored to a drug overdose; my parents died; a sibling cut off contact. I’ve found and lost lovers, jobs, friends.
I don’t regret having an abortion, but I do have anger at the shame and blame that still exists in our society toward women who have abortions, for whatever reasons. To paraphrase a UC Santa Cruz student who spoke at a recent pro-choice rally, we’re just human beings doing human things.
My decision to have an abortion was mine, based on my needs and desires for my life. Every woman should have that freedom of choice.
Peggy Flynn has been a lobbyist, a technical writer and editor, a grant writer, a farmer, a sheep shearer, and a Peace Corps volunteer (Botswana 2013-16). Her new gig is auctioneering for nonprofits (She goes by “Peggy, Queen of Riches”). She has a deep commitment to civic engagement and serves on various community boards and committees. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for 26 years.